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school board looks at the options: Frazee superintendent

There is no shortage of those wanting to step in and help run the Frazee-Vergas School District.

After advertising for about 10 days, the district has received 12 applications for the interim superintendent position. School Board Chair Rich Ziegler said that retired Frazee superintendent Joe Merseth contacted him about filling the position or being a mentor to someone else if needed, but he didn't submit an application.

Principal Rob Nudell, who is serving as emergency interim superintendent until an interim is hired, also submitted a request to be considered for the job.

"I think picking a superintendent should be a collaborative effort of the whole board, not a subcommittee," Board Member Steve Jepson said.

Board member Ken Fett asked if the district needs a full-time superintendent because sharing a superintendent with another district has been discussed in past years. He questioned if Nudell, or someone else if the district were to take applications, could handle a combined role of principal and superintendent.

It's not an unheard of role: Mitch Anderson, who happens to be a Frazee graduate, served in that combined capacity in Waubun-Ogema-White Earth until recently taking the superintendent position at the Perham-Dent School District.

"It's just a lot of work," Board Member Keith Janu said of the combined role. "For a district our size, I think it would be overwhelming."

Several board members asked Nudell to put a proposal together, outlining the job details of a combined position.

"I think this process should go a little more thoroughly," Janu said regarding the K-12 principal/superintendent combined position.

He added that Lori Thorp's suggestion that the mayors of Frazee, Wolf Lake and Vergas be involved in the superintendent process is a good idea too because "it brings a community investment to it."

When discussing if the board wants to hire from its list of applicants, Janu also suggested having Minnesota School Boards Association conduct the search would be a viable option, even though there is a cost to it.

The board agreed to a July 5 special meeting to discuss whom each of the board' members top three applicants would be to interview for the interim position, and to review Nudell's proposal of what duties would be included in a combined principal-superintendent position.

Also at the Monday morning meeting, the board voted to allow buyout payment to former superintendent Deron Stender to be split into two payments as long as there was a benefit to the district.

Ziegler said Stender's attorney asked if the district is "willing to spread out part now and part after Jan. 1."

Ziegler added that he hadn't heard back from the district's attorney, Kristi Hastings, on the matter.

Having the sum broken into two calendar years would be an obvious tax break for Stender.

Board Member Jim Nelson noted that the terms of the agreement said a one-time payout, and wondered if agreeing to two payouts would be changing the terms of the agreement.

"If we make one change, is it going to add more change or possibilities (for more changes to the agreement)," he said.

Ziegler said a letter he received from Stender's attorney said the two payments would benefit the cash flow situation of the district, but Ziegler said he didn't know why it would, since now and Jan. 1 are in the same fiscal year for the district.

The board agreed to make the two payments if it financially benefits the district and Stender splits the tax benefit. If there is no benefit to the district, the contract stands and it will be paid out in one payment.